Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Review: The Bird King

The Bird King The Bird King by G. Willow Wilson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Set in 1491 during the reign of the last sultanate in the Iberian peninsula, this novel tells the story of Fatima, the concubine to the sultan, and her friend Hassan, the palace mapmaker. With the enemy at the gate, Fa and Hassan attempt an escape with the help of a jinn.

Wilson blends fantasy and magic with history, morphing into an epic adventure, and I love that the story is told through two characters who have never been free until now.

Thanks to the publisher for providing a copy through Edelweiss. It came out March 12.

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Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Reading Envy 145: Things Get Dark

Bianca joins Jenny for a late-night chat about books, and we follow all tangents to the end. We cover cults, manga and comics, and middle-grade reads. Bianca talks about her monthly themed reads in 2018 and how that has inspired her focused reading in 2019. Jenny begs your forgiveness for a few coughing spells; allergies have hit early in the south. (She edited everything out that she could.)

Download or listen via this link: Reading Envy 145: Things Get Dark

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Books discussed:



Breaking Free by Rachel Jeffs
Serafina and the Black Cloak by Robert Beatty
Kitty and the Midnight Hour by Carrie Vaughn
My Brother's Husband Vol. 1 by Gengoroh Tagame
Hunger Makes Me a Modern Girl by Carrie Brownstein

Other mentions:

I'll Be Gone in the Dark by Michelle McNamara
Ghosts of the Tsunami by Richard Lloyd Parry
Nothing to Envy by Barbara Demick
A Princess in Theory by Alyssa Cole
Once Ghosted, Twice Shy by Alyssa Cole
Big Love (tv show)
Serafina and the Black Cloak book trailer
Biltmore Estate
Willa of the Wood by Robert Beatty
Over the Rainbow Booklist final bibliographies for 2018
Heavy Vinyl (comic series)
Backstagers (comic series)
Boom Studios
Just Kids by Patti Smith
Phoenix ComiCon (formerly known as)
The Argonauts by Maggie Nelson

Related Episodes:

Episode 051 - Dreaming in Books with Karen
Episode 127 - The Sadness Between Books with Bianca Escalante

Stalk us online:
Jenny at Goodreads
Jenny on Twitter
Jenny is @readingenvy on Instagram and Litsy
Bianca is @bianca on Litsy

Tuesday, March 5, 2019

Review: Bottled Goods (Fairlight Moderns): Longlisted for Women's Prize for Fiction 2019

Bottled Goods (Fairlight Moderns): Longlisted for Women's Prize for Fiction 2019 Bottled Goods (Fairlight Moderns): Longlisted for Women's Prize for Fiction 2019 by Sophie van Llewyn
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I had not heard of this book before it was announced as one of the Women's Prize long list. It is a short read told in flash style, like lists and little vignettes, set in Romania during the Ceaușescu era (1970s.)

Alina married a man in a lower class and really starts to regret it when his brother leaves the country without permission, making them a new target for the secret police. Mix that kind of oppression and intrigue with a folksy fantasy element and you end up with a unique read! I loved the ending, at least how I interpret it. If you read it, let me know so we can confer.

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Sunday, March 3, 2019

Review: Save Me the Plums: My Gourmet Memoir

Save Me the Plums: My Gourmet Memoir Save Me the Plums: My Gourmet Memoir by Ruth Reichl
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

If you have followed Ruth Reichl through her memoirs, this takes place between Garlic and Sapphires: The Secret Life of a Critic in Disguise and My Kitchen Year: 136 Recipes That Saved My Life, telling the story of her experience as the editor for Gourmet Magazine up until its shocking closure. I feel this memoir is for foodies first, but will also be of interest for anyone in publishing or the arts. The people working for Gourmet cultivated an environment of creative exploration and perfection that made the magazine what it is, and I loved reading about each person's contributions and how the magazine reflected the changing culture of food in the United States. There's an entire chapter, for instance, about the publication of "Consider the Lobster" by David Foster Wallace, which I had no idea was first published in Gourmet!

In a different voice, I can see how this story could be obnoxious. So many famous people, so many fancy meals and expensive restaurants, so many trends in food and fashion. But Ruth Reichl is so direct, honest, and open that the story transforms into something more heartwarming than it feels it has the right to be.

Unlike My Kitchen Year which is sometimes referred to as a cookbook (although I personally still feel it is more memoir than recipe), this memoir only has 3-4 recipes. I have my eye on that chocolate cake that helped her establish kitchen credibility with her staff. If I make it, I'll come back to post a link here.

This book comes out April 2. I received an early copy from Random House through NetGalley.

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Thoughts on the Women's Prize for Fiction Longlist

I can't help myself, I pay attention to award lists, especially longlists. Tonight, the Women's Prize for Fiction longlist was announced, and I thought I'd write a short response. I've actually read 6 of these already!

The Silence of the Girls by Pat Barker
I haven't read this one yet but I remember seeing it in the reshelving area at work so I might snag it. Myth retellings are not often a hit with me, but I am still interested in this one.

Remembered by Yvonne Battle-Felton
I had not heard of this book or author, but it doesn't even come out until August, so I'm not surprised. A historical novel set in Philadelphia.

My Sister, the Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite
This is one book that's on the Tournament of Books shortlist that I haven't read yet. I've heard it's pulpy, comic, and short, but I can't find a copy in all my library options to save my life.

The Pisces by Melissa Broder
Gah, I can't believe I haven't read this one yet. Completely mean to, for sure.

Milkman by Anna Burns
Winner of the Man Booker Prize, this was not a five-star read for me. I've heard the audio really helps, but I always was left feeling like I'd missed the humor that others had seen. My longer review is here if you are interested.

Freshwater by Akwaeke Emezi
This is a stand-out, unusual novel that I really loved. The author has said they do not identify as one gender, so I was taken back a little, but I'm not the only one. The Guardian picked up on that story immediately. It would align with feminist theory to be more inclusive, but I expect there will be discussion about this decision.

Ordinary People by Diana Evans
This one isn't on my radar although I see it came out in October, about marital strife in two South London couples. It sounds like my kind of thing, but perhaps too stereotypically "domestic" to be the winner of the Women's Prize?

Swan Song by Kelleigh Greenberg-Jephcott
This doesn't come out until June, but looks to be about the six women surrounding Truman Capote. Hmm.

An American Marriage by Tayari Jones
I read this before it was an Oprah Book Club pick, but I'm happy to see it on this list. The storytelling technique of rotating narratives, the setting of Atlanta, the issue of black male incarceration - it leaves a lot to discuss.  My review discusses it a little more in depth and can be found here.

Number One Chinese Restaurant by Lilian Li
I could have sword I read this book! Maybe I've just seen the cover a bunch.

Bottled Goods by Sophie van Llewyn
Ooh, a small-press book about spies. I might have to read this one next. Oh look I just bought the Kindle version.

Lost Children Archive by Valeria Luiselli
I've swirled around this one - a road trip plus a border story should be good, but I didn't like her teeth novel so I've been dragging my feet.

Praise Songs for the Butterflies by Bernice L McFadden
Set in West Africa, about ritual sacrifice/slavery. It didn't immediately peak my interest when it came out but maybe more people will read it now.

Circe by Madeline Miller
This is one of two five-star reads on this list for me, and I also included it in my best reads of 2018. It's the story of Circe, a character in the Odyssey, from her perspective, and it is genius. A powerful woman, a compelling narrative, beautiful writing.  My review is here.

Ghost Wall by Sarah Moss
This is the only book I've read by this author despite meaning to read her work for a while, and it was one in a number of books with domineering father figures, too much for me. My review is here.

Normal People by Sally Rooney
I have been waiting forever for this book to come out in the United States and it still has a month and a half to go. I don't usually talk about books that aren't out yet on my podcast but when Anna Baillee-Karas was on, we talked around it because I had just finished it and knew she'd liked it too. It's mostly a relationship with tons of conversation and I loved it. I was so bummed it didn't make the Man Booker shortlist! My review is here, and the podcast episode where I kind of talked about it a bit is here

Friday, March 1, 2019

Books Read February 2019: 23-50


Pictured are 5-star reads for February

23. Outline by Rachel Cusk ***** (library book; my review)
24. The House of Impossible Beauties by Joseph Cassara ***** (print galley; my review)
25. Fired Up by Andrew Johnston ***** (library book; my review)
26. Sugar Run by Mesha Maren **** (print galley; my review)
27. The Enchanted Hour by Meghan Cox Gurdon **** (eARC from Edelweiss; my review)
28. My Brother's Husband Vol. 1 by Gengoroh Tagame ***** (interlibrary loan; my review)
29. The Cloud Atlas by Liam Callanan *** (interlibrary loan; my review)
30. The Care and Feeding of Ravenously Hungry Girls by Anissa Gray **** (print galley; my review)
31. My Brother's Husband Vol. 2 by Gengoroh Tagame **** (print galley; my review)
32. After Dark by Haruki Murakami **** (personal copy; my review)
33. The Calculating Stars by Mary Robinette Kowal **** (Audible audiobook; my review)
34. The Cassandra by Sharma Shields *** (eARC from Edelweiss; my review)
35. Serafina and the Black Cloak by Robert Beatty **** (Prime Reads; my review)
36. Beneath the Sugar Sky by Seanan McGuire **** (print galley; my review)
37. The Lie and How We Told It by Tommi Parrish **** (print galley; my review)
38. Last Night in Nuuk by Niviaq Korneliussen **** (Hoopla eBook; my review)
39. Seven Practices of a Mindful Leader by Marc Lesser *** (eARC from Edelweiss; my review)
40. Nothing but the Night by John Williams **** (eARC from Edelweiss; my review)
41. A Princess in Theory by Alyssa Cole **** (Hoopla audiobook; my review)
42. Small Beauty by jia qing wilson-yang **** (personal copy; my review)
43. More than Words by Jill Santopolo **** (eARC from NetGalley; my review)
44. Fruit of the Drunken Tree by Ingrid Rojas Contreras **** (interlibrary loan; my review)
45. The Twenty-Ninth Year by Hala Alyan **** (eARC from NetGalley; my review)
46. Roots Grew Wild by Erica Hoffmeister *** (eARC from publisher; my review)
47. Double Awesome Chinese Food by Margaret, Irene, and Andrew Li ***** (eARC from NetGalley; my review)
48. Little Fish by Casey Plett **** (print galley; my review)
49. America is Not the Heart by Elaine Castillo **** (Audible audiobook; my review)
50. In at the Deep End by Kate Davies **** (eARC from publisher; my review)

Books Finished in February: 28

Audiobooks: 3
eBooks: 12
Print: 13

Library: 7
Personal: 5
Review: 16


Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Review: America Is Not the Heart

America Is Not the Heart America Is Not the Heart by Elaine Castillo
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This was a great read about several Filipino women - one who supports her family as a nurse, returning to the Philippines at one point before marrying and moving to the United States. The focus eventually turns to Hero, who is a refugee after living as a political prisoner for ten years. She finds home and family in a Filipino community in California and even finds love. The end of the novel, in fact turns into a bit of a romance novel, and possibly the most realistic portrayal of a bisexual woman I have seen in fiction.

I learned a lot about Filipino languages, culture, and history that I didn't know before.

There are a lot of pop culture references inside the novel itself, much of them for Filipino movies, tv shows, and music. If you felt left out or uneducated, you can at least listen to the author's Spotify playlist for the novel.

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